Hang on, I’m searching through this book called “Basketball School of Thoughts” and am trying to see what they say about the options when you’re down three with 32 seconds to go and the opposition has the ball. OK, just went through it and nowhere does it say that you should intentionally foul to make it a two-possession game. Are we tanking? I don’t know, are we? That decision by Jose Calderon (called a mistake by Triano) to foul Corey Maggette to basically ice the game for the Bucks made no literal or figurative sense. Triano says that the plan was to foul Bogut but there was obviously a massive communication breakdown there. Instead of forcing the Bucks to execute on offense after they had coughed it up twice and been bailed out by a rim-hugging three, the Raptors conceded the game at the FT line. I’ve seen crazy stuff happen in the NBA, but nothing quite like this. Best part, Jack and Devlin didn’t say a word.
I’ll fast-forward you to Act 5 of this play where the Raptors have hung with the Bucks (or is it the Bucks who hung with the Raptors?) to force the game into overtime after Bargnani missed a game-winning three on an excruciatingly bad play designed by Triano. The Bucks had showed no hesitancy in what they were all about in OT – Andrew Bogut. They had achieved success through the Bogut/Bargnani matchup in the first quarter, and they went back to the well. Three straight post-ups for 6 straight points. It finally dawned on Triano to switch Amir Johnson on the Australian and when he did, the result was two straight turnovers as Johnson did an excellent job of ball-denial.
Courtesy of some inspired defense and an anemic Buck offense, the Raptors tied the game on scores by Johnson and DeRozan, setting up the stage for heroism. Delfino’s drive then found Maggette who was wide open from three, and I’m thinking you got to take your chances with a 30% three-point shooter. Too bad God hates the Raptors. The ball bounced a couple times and rolled in gently, whilst waiving a middle finger and whispering a big f**k you to the Raptors bench. 10 straight losses. Rebuilding in full force. Lottery balls clanging so hard in my mind that it’s drowning out the Baby Einstein.
Let’s rewind to the final scene of Act 4, with the game tied the Bucks had the chance to win it. Delfino drove, was sealed off by Bargnani and then like the little punk that he is, flopped. No call, finally a decent decision by the refs who were awful all night. The Raptors got the ball back and drew up a “play” for Bargnani – a fadeaway three from the side which hit one of the exit signs, prompting me to recall the last time Triano drew up a last-second play that didn’t suck donkey balls. Nothing came to mind.
No loss is tough to swallow from this point out, in fact, bring them on in sheer force for all I care. This season’s over and it’s all about the incoming talent this summer and it all starts with the draft.
Amir Johnson with 24 points and 12 rebounds, a massive effort from an unlikely source of offense. He made up for DeMar DeRozan’s trying game where he looked to glance at his buddy Brandon Jennings on the bench every time he drove to the rim. Maybe he was nervous or something, maybe he just had a bad game, 5-14 for 11 points and three turnovers. With him bringing us low quality offense and Bargnani getting 23 points on 23 shots, it’s a miracle the Raptors were even in this game. They could have won it too if it weren’t for Ersan Ilyasova (9-10 FG, 25 points), the Turk and Johnson were checking each other most of the night and Triano didn’t feel like an adjustment needed to be made. Ilyasova’s shot-fakes, off-the-dribble game and ball movement were too much for Johnson to handle and he conceded wide open looks to the Buck. I felt that at some point the Raptors might want to try putting on someone like Wright or Weems on him, just so he wouldn’t get so open after one dribble. Didn’t happen.
On the other end, Scott Skiles had the 6’8″ Mbah a Moute on Bargnani who was
neutralized neutered by him for the first half. Bargnani was a bit better in the second but nothing which would reflect that 4″ height advantage. He makes himself so easy to guard sometimes, so easy that it makes you want to break into his house, kidnap his hot girlfriend, send a video tape of her gagged and bound to a chair with a gun to her head with a note saying “Drive or I pull the trigger” (I just saw Disappearance of Alice Creed). That. That is the only thing that can get this guy to be aggressive and play like he cares.
The defensive effort in the first quarter was like a gay man in Iran – non-existent. The Bucks drove and coaxed the Raptors, who were just waking up, into fouls and on top they had Bogut going with 12 early points. No answer for the Aussie inside and no defense outside means giving up 32 points in the first quarter and being down 10. Way to want to break that 9-game slide, boys! The bench did the trick in the second, and Bayless was the spark and even Ajinca got busy hitting long jumpers. They brought us back and the halftime bench-scoring read 31-8 and the score was 57-55 Raptors. The only reason it wasn’t a five point lead was because Ilyasova seduced Johnson for a three-shot foul.
The bench disappeared in the second half, the Raptors got a whopping total of 4 points from the second unit as DeRozan, Bargnani and Johnson became more ball-dominant. The Bucks’ bench got a boost from Carlos Delfino and proceeded to shoot 69% in the third quarter. This brings us to Matt Devlin’s completely meaningless stat of the game, in the third quarter he drops this gem: “The Bucks are 1-5 in games decided by three points or less”. Who. F*****g. Cares.
Credit to the Raptors for hanging tough and not going away, they even had an 8 point lead after a couple defensive stops in the third quarter. The Bucks’ defense was pretty tight and they had a lot of strips/half-strips that disrupted the flow of the Raptors offense, and made life very difficult for DeRozan and anybody venturing into the paint. Maggette and the Bucks pressured the Raptors perimeter players into frustration and then pounded them going right at their bodies on the other end. Lose-lose situation. Triano spoke about the physical dominance of Maggette:
Physically, we couldn’t keep them in front of us. You look at guys like Maggette getting to the free throw line 10 times to score 29 points. It’s all on drives and him being able to get head and shoulders past our guys and either finishing or getting to the line. Again, strength is a little bit of an issue there but you got to be able to move your feet and keep guys in front of you and we didn’t do a very good job of that.
The Raptors had 9 steals and the Bucks had 6, which is not reflective of the defense played in this game. The Bucks shot 55% for the game and the Raptors were at 47%, the Bucks also had 14 more shots and hit 5 more threes (the Raptors only hit one). Add all these numbers together and you have the Raptors unable to contain the Bucks in a remotely consistent manner, and when they did manage to get, say, three stops in a row, the offense faltered because of either low-percentage shots (ahem, Bargnani) or the Bucks defense suffocating DeRozan and company’s weak drives. Jose Calderon had a strong second half, tried to carry the team and then ran out of gas like he often does. A key uncharacteristic-last-year-but-characteristic-this-year turnover hurt the Raptors as he got greedy in transition, can’t blame him, it’s rebuilding.
Final word goes to Ilyasova, it’s like he’s taking Hedo’s revenge. The second-round find by the Bucks was lighting Johnson up and I felt sorry for the Amir, because there is no way he should have been kept on him for any more than two possessions. You take your chances hoping a perimeter player like Bargnani cancels Ilyasova out, and Johnson does the same with Bogut. Instead, both of them lit the Raptors up. The streak is now at 10, up next the Raptors go on a trip: Minnesota (can’t wait to see Kevin Love), Indiana and Atlanta.
Can we hit 13? Yes. We. Can. Say it with me!